Wednesday, December 31, 2008

2008: Year in Review

First off, thank you so much for all of the birthday wishes! I received so many emails, phone calls and texts (yes, my first texts..I now have an iPhone..) I sure appreciate your thoughts and well wishes!

It's that time again; another close to another year. Amazing. Really. Next year Tyler will graduate, going off to college, then Troy, then my nephew, Lukas..OK, I'm getting ahead of myself and it is scaring me.

2008. Great. Hey that rhymes. Last year at this time there were a few unsures that were bothering me.

Budget Cuts: The referendum at our school didn't pass and I thought I'd take a hit. I didn't. Not this time. For that I am grateful.

My Health: My Dr. was strongly suggesting a hysterectomy (I'm at high risk for ovarian cancer in case you are a new reader). After many discussions and opinions we came back to the original: continued screening every 6 months, genetic counseling, etc. I completed the every 6 month ritual this week and so far am sitting pretty. She still feels a hysterectomy is preferred, but I'm balking. I'm not as stressed over this as I was last year.

2008 was fabulous. My mother was given the all clear for her second bout with ovarian cancer, my boys are growing up to be nice, pleasant teenagers. They still like and respect me, they do well in school and make great choices. For this I am so very grateful.

During 2008 I was able to reach most of my goals. I had set the goal of running 5 - 100 mile ultra marathons. I did run 5, however, I finished 4. I didn't make the cut off at the 100K mark at Leadville 100. I didn't run fast enough and timed out at 62 miles. However, I had a wonderful time. I didn't drop on my own, I ran until they had to pull me. At 62 I felt fresh as a daisy. Not a good thing. I should have run harder; I thought I was 'saving myself' for the end. Dang.

I wanted to plan a race around a family vacation and Colorado was an awesome place to visit. We spent two weeks together on the road trip, a trip we still laugh and talk about. We had a fantastic time.

The other 100s were: McNaughton 100 (First Woman), FANS 100 (110 miles 3rd Woman), Superior 100 (3rd Master course PR for me of 34:34), and Javelina 100 (4th Woman, PR of 23:15)!

One bonus of the extra miles was that I PR'd at Twin Cities Marathon (3:45). Not only PR'd but ran a Boston Qualifier. Not bad as I am getting older, hu? Older and faster is a good thing.

I was able to lose the final fat early in 2008 and have maintained my fat loss. There haven't been many or any New Year's that I'm not thinking "if only I could lose 15 pounds". I can't tell you how GOOD it feels to not be saying that to myself this New Years Eve!

In 2008 I decided to try my hand at coaching. I began to coach running classes with MDRA and had so much fun! I decided to obtain my USATF Level 1 Coaching Certification. After coaching a few classes on my own this summer and fall I know that this is something I will continue to do. I am coaching online as well and getting to know my clients so well via online is a new experience for me. Two of my clients ran their first marathon this fall. Another client will run her first half marathon this April! One of my clients will run his first 100 in June! Woohoo!! I love to watch and guide their progress.

I decided to market my Foot Potion online. I can't tell you how many times people ask me about blister care. I had finally figured it decided to share it with everybody. It's been a great seller because it works! I'll continue to offer it.

For 2008 I wanted to run a 100 by myself, travel myself, and enjoy the whole experience by myself. Totally selfish, but totally exhilarating and just what I needed.

I decided on Javelina Jundred. It was held during deer hunting season so the guys would be gone anyway. It was a perfect time. Javelina Jundred is in beautiful Arizona. Fountain Hills, just out of Scottsdale. Beautiful. Posh. Fabulous. What a treat. It truly was a present that I gave myself. I loved the whole experience. I didn't know anyone that would be running, I didn't know anything about the was all brand new. Fabulous. Wonderful warm weather, 87 F while 11F at home, a great running route, beautiful country, awesome Race Director and volunteers and food. Oh yeah, I really want to go back November! It was that much fun. I don't know if I could replicate how wonderful it was..but I could try.

During the year I decided to put myself on a budget. I've never done this before. I decided to go to a Dave Ramsey workshop and everything changed for me relating to budget. I have been paying off and saving like never before. I am attending another selection of workshops beginning in January again by Dave Ramsey. I've been enlightened!

As 2008 comes to a close I am very very grateful. It was a fabulous year!

Happy New Year (Eve)!

Now I need to put together my 2009 goal list. You should too!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

44 Years Old and 4 year Bloggerversary

It's been 4 years since I created my first post upon this blog. 4 years! Hell, I was blogging before blogging was a term that everyone knew the meaning of.

I was so depressed when I created my first entry. I was depressed because it was my 40th birthday. Instead of embracing the fact that I had reached 40 I was just plain old sad that I was becoming old.

Thankfully the day after 40 was much better and there hasn't been a birthday since that I have been depressed.

Still, 44 today. Wow.

Upon the conclusion of my 4 6 month check clinic appointments during the past week my fabulous Dr. told me that my body is 23 years old. I told her to tell that to my wrinkles and graying hair!

She gave me an eye roll and told me to be thankful. I am.

Thank you for all of the birthday wishes. I'm forcing my family to eat with me at Bucca.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

44 for 44

44? Who me and how the hell did that happen?

Yup. I'll be 44 years old on December 30th. Because the 30th falls on a work day for me this year I was thinking I'd snowshoe 44 miles this next weekend. I snowshoed 43 last year and survived. I then did a 50 mile snowshoe the following month...

Carl sent out an email earlier this week that he would be running his birthday miles (54) today as he will be working on his birthday, the 29th. I changed my mind and decided I'd run 44; much easier :)

I also decided to begin earlier than Carl. He was starting at 6 AM, running around Harriet for 54 miles. I wanted to be back home, shower and get in grocery shopping before the boys arrived home from the Vikings game - which they won in the last seconds by 1 point! Woohoo..

If I wasn't to be home when they arrived they wouldn't want to tell me all about it with excitement and stories. I'd miss out. Yes, I was in Minneapolis running the lakes early early so that I could hear about the Vikings game as soon as they return and not after all the excitement and emotion leaves them. They will be home shortly.

I started out by running Harriet before the sun rose. There weren't too many people out running in the dark. I wore my headlamp since I had on my heavy fleece hat and wouldn't be prone to headaches. The paths were real icy but they did have a nice coating of sand upon them.

After running Harriet a few times and not seeing Carl, I decided to run the chain of 3. Harriet to Calhoun to Lake of the Isles. Lake of the Isles if my favorite to run. I like the dog park; I stopped by for a visit, I like the hockey rink and the fact that not too many run at Isles. I don't know why there are so many at Harriet, less at Calhoun and even less at Isles.

The path from Calhoun to Isles was treacherous-all ice and no sand, but well worth the Isles run. I ran the chain of 3 lakes 3 times, walking the path from Calhoun to Isles each time. I then hung out on Lake of the Isles for a few laps around before heading back and running one final lap around Harriet to see if I could find Carl, then calling it 44 miles.

I did see E Fisher and Carol Z 2 times -both times on Calhoun at different points during the day. It was fun to recognize them in all of the winter gear.

I never did see Carl!

It was cold this morning. I decided to leave my water in the car at Harriet. I didn't want to freeze my hand off with my handheld and I didn't need frozen bottles hanging off of my waist. Every 2 hours I'd stop by for a swig of water and head back out. I decided against opening any gels en route as I froze my hand off the first time. I couldn't warm up! Finally at about 30 miles I could pull my hands (double mitted hands) out of my jacket sleeves. I couldn't believe how cold I was. I never did pull my neck gaiter off of my nose!

44 miles never felt so easy though. I was done earlier than I thought (I guess I'm a bit faster than I give myself credit for) and was starving! I ate my can of tuna and apple before I even left Hennepin Avenue! I even had time to stop by REI to spend the gift certificate my sister gave me for Christmas! I wasn't sore or stiff or tired as I walked around REI. I had forgotten that I just ran 44 miles, until my sweat began to give me a chill and I looked in the mirror and it was like oh yeah, I look like I just ran 44 miles. Flushed and sweaty and bad hair. I ended up purchasing a new winter running jacket, of course. I've been wearing the same windbreaker for winter running since I first began. I wear it all seasons, just add layers during the winter. Now I have a new one :) It should last me another 10 years..

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Shiny Bright

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16 Layer Jell-O

Isn't it pretty? I love Shiny Bright ornaments from Christopher Radko and this jell-o reminds me of my beautiful ornaments all around me so I will call this jell-0 Shiny Bright.

Nancy brought this jell-o to our Thanksgiving Fat Ass at Afton a few weeks ago. I knew immediately that I had to put it together for Christmas Eve. I added the cherries and whipping cream.

Nancy mixes in sour cream with every other layer; I used whipping cream. My boys aren't big on sour cream. Some use yogurt.

Here's what I did:

I bought the Trifle bowl from Pier 1 Imports for $2.99! It's glass, it's huge and you can't beat that price. It holds 19 cups.

So, I bought 7 different colors of jell-o. I mixed one cup of hot water into each jell-o and dissolved and stirred. I then took out 1/2 cup of the jell-o water mix and added 1/3 c whipping cream to one of the 1/2 cups of jell-o. I had bowls and jell-o all over the place.

I poured a jell-o bowl into the Trifle bowl and let set about 20 minutes - until finger bounces back when touched. Then I poured the same color with the whipping cream on top. Set again for 20 minutes and repeat and repeat and repeat. I found that the jell-o would set while sitting on the cupboard so I just microwaved for a minute until runny again.

On top I placed a couple of cups of whipping cream and red/green cherries.

Shiny Bright!!

Have a Merry Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Dig In!

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'Red Cake"

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Waldorf Asotria Red Velvet Cake

I must say, I've baked 100's or even 1000's of cake recipes. Really. That many. I love to bake and I can't resist a new recipe.

This Waldorf Astoria Red Velvet Cake is my all time favorite, number one, bestest of the best cake recipe. The cake, the frosting, it is my favorite as well as my family, my parents and my sister and her family.

Valentine Day means 'Red Cake', Christmas means 'Red Cake', a birthday or two a year = a 'Red Cake'. This year I baked if for our office Christmas party. It was a hit.

I've tried different variations of my recipe. I put together this tripled recipe in 1993 (it says so on the recipe card) and I have stayed true to it. I like FULL 10" round cake pans. I don't like a skimpy small cake. I like 4 or 6 layers. If I'm doing a tall cake I'll bake in 3 pans. If I'm baking a shorter cake (which is tall for most) I will use 2 pans, cutting into 4 layers.

Tonight I put this together for Christmas Eve. I have a bit of a problem. I no longer eat this stuff. I still want it, however. Tonight I baked it right after I ate 3 cups of sauteed broccoli, onion and garlic; 6 ounces of cod. I was too stuffed to even be tempted to lick my fingers!

I have an addiction to sugar. The only way I can keep sane is to stay off of it completely. Kind of like tequila, gin and beer. My old favorites. Sugar is now one of those.

Here is the recipe. Try it! You'll love it!

4 eggs
1 c shortening
3 c sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder

4 1/2 c cake flour
2 c buttermilk
1 t salt
1 tsp vanilla
(alternate dry/wet)

1 bottle red food color
1 T cocoa
Add to creamed mixture

2 t soda + 1 t vinegar
will bubble; fold into mixture

Be SURE to line your cake pans with oil AND wax paper. Cake will stick to pans and that will be a travesty! Wax paper is the key!!

Bake at 350 for 30-35 minutes. DON'T OVER BAKE. It will become dry. Believe me; I know. I've made this 1000 times and have screwed it up. Now I know the way to complete the cake correctly!

Let cake cool 5 minutes; cover pan with plate, flip cake onto plate and pull off wax paper. Let cool 30 minutes. Wrap each cake in saran wrap until cool. The steam makes the cakes moist. A good thing.

I usually make the cake one night, the frosting the next.

9 Tbs flour
3 c milk
Cook on medium until thick. Real thick. Stir constantly and cool all of the way through. If this is even a bit warm, it will melt your frosting. Believe me. I know. Let it be cold!

3 c sugar (granulated-not powder!) yeah, been there, done that.
3 c butter (not margarine. butter)
3 t vanilla
Beat until fluffy-I beat 10 minutes. Add COLD flour mixture and beat beat beat. A kitchen aid works best. I beat another 5 minutes.

Unwrap cakes. Pull a piece of dental floss in the middle of each layer, halving the layer. This works better than a knife. Yup, I know.

You'll have 4 (or 6 if you did 3 pans) layers. Fill each layer FULL. No skimpy cakes here, fill it full. A couple of cups into each layer. You'll have enough frosting. Frost the top and then sides last. Refrigerate or sit in the garage during the winter; it firms up quickly!

Wonderful. Beautiful. Fantastic Cake! Let them eat and be merry :)

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Topaz With Booties This Morning

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Baby, It's Cold Outside

I'm just thankful that I snowshoed long yesterday while it was warm and balmy (21F and a snowstorm, we received 6") and short today. 8 miles snowshoeing at -12F and a -43 wind chill. It really does put goosebumps on my skin.

First two pants run of the season. 2 shirts, wind jacket, gloves and wind mitts, turtle fur hat and neck wrap keeps me toasty. My feet became cold as my gortex Inov 8's were still soaked from yesterday. I should have stuffed them with newspaper but spaced it. I wore my Flyrock's instead.

The snow is just wonderful! We were the first to break the trail of course and in some of the meadow areas where the big drifts were, it was well past my knees. Cool. Topaz loped over the moguls, enjoying it all.

Topaz stayed warm with his booties. The first time I put them on him he didn't know what I was doing. He didn't want his paws to touch the floor, and stepped high, barely putting any weight on them. It was quite funny! Now he knows that they keep the ice out and are a preparation for a run. When he saw the booties in my hand this morning he knew we were going for a run and did his silly happy run dance.

1.5 hours on the trail was enough for me today! This afternoon I'm going to meet Suzanne for a yoga session. Nice and warm.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Late to Bed; Early to Rise

After a snowshoe run and a heavy lifting session of legs yesterday I came home to relax the evening away with the boys. After I was changed into pajamas, taking my spot upon the couch, Tyler reminded me of our plans for the evening.

A group of friends that Tyler has had since Kindergarten have formed a band. I have heard them in the garage, but never in a bar. Last night they were playing at the local dive. I haven't been to the Refuge since I drank, 12 years I guess. Tyler and his friends had been ribbing me all day at school telling me that I probably wouldn't show up since I like to be in bed by 10. The band was playing from 9-11, teenagers were welcome.

I really did want to listen to them as they play heavy metal, which I obviously love, and they are all friends of mine. They call themselves LHD for Long Haired Delinquents which is kind of funny, as they are all A Honor Students..are very respectful and never in any trouble, and yes, all have grown their hair (but one) well past their shoulders. They have to do the 'head bob' you know while they are jamming.

Tyler and I showed up just before show time. Oh my god, all of the bar flies along the bar and in the back. Ish. The front room was full of band member families and students. All great kids. I found a spot and waited.

Guns N Roses, Metallica, Ted Nugent, Kiss, Megadeath, Black Label Society (who I'll be seeing in March), Buck Cherry, God Smack. All the good stuff. No Ozzy; Beau says he can't sing Ozzy. Pity. It was a great time, well worth a tired morning!

I feel blessed that Tyler and his friends even want me to be around them. I was the only one there who knew every word to every song. What a blast.

5 AM came quickly. What a beautiful morning! 22F and a nice heavy wet snow. Wonderful. 2o mile snowshoe was on the agenda. I purchased Topaz some booties for his birthday. They are so nice, the ice doesn't build in his paws-he doesn't stop to chew it out-I don't have to freeze my hands digging it out-nice booties! Not one other person was on the trail, it was peaceful. No wildlife but pileated, yellow bellied and red headed woodpeckers.

By the time we hit 15 miles my ass was sore. I could feel the squats, lunges and presses I did last night. I walked more of the final 3 miles than I ran.

When we arrived home the boys were already out sliding; Topaz joined them for a few hours while I did some stocking stuffer shopping. The temperature has dropped to 0 and the wind is whipping. Lots of snow and wind. Tomorrow's run won't be as pleasant as today.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

More Exciting Crossing of River Last Year

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Easy Crossing of the River This Year

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Love the Snow This Morning!

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Let It Snow Let It Snow Let It Snow

What a fabulous morning run! The snow, thick and wet and abundant. The forest; quiet of people and dogs. Only the sound of falling snow..and grouse..and the snort of a few deer..

I didn't wake up until 7AM! I don't know when the last time I slept in so late was, many months ago. Steve left the house at 5 to ice fish so I had the bed to myself and was able to snooze. Lovely.

When Troy and I came downstairs at 715 it was pouring rain outside, 36F. I couldn't believe it. It would be a warm wet run. Warm wet snowshoe? I wasn't sure. I put the snowshoes in the car just in case.

By the time we reached the trail head the rain had turned to snow and was coming down quickly. Big, wet, fat flakes. I couldn't see where the road/shoulder was. Crazy how quickly it changed.

The trail was lovely. Beautiful and magical; all white. No people. Just Topaz and I. I put my snowshoes on and off we went to make the first tracks. Just like a child; I loved to be the first to make the tracks..I still do! Well, second-Topaz always beats me.

We ran through the woods, the snow falling so heavily and steady that I couldn't see Topaz at times. It was so beautiful. The trees were becoming heavy with snow and creaking under the weight.

As I ran past a bunch of small oak trees 4 grouse began to beat their wings and create their vacuum. They startled me with their noisy drumming! I guess we startled them first.

I ran with a smile on my face and couldn't stop exclaiming "Topaz! This is wonderful..this is magnificent..I love this!"

I am so thankful that I began to run. I used to hate snowy days. I didn't want to drive anywhere for fear of bad driving conditions; I would sit on the couch..eating..and wasting the day away. So sad. I was so happy to be out in the snow, in the woods, happily running along the trail! What a treat.

Last year I had to remove my snowshoes at the river in order to jump over and scramble up the sides. Not this year; the bridges are in place. It takes the adventure out of the crossing but that's OK!

Not even a skier out on the trail today. As we were finishing up I wondered if I could get Steve to go cross country skiing with me later in the afternoon?

Not so! By the time I had returned home the rain was coming down hard-and melting the snow we had received. Bummer. It is snowing again now, this evening but is supposed to be in the single digits for the highs all week.

Here it is already mid December. I am beginning to write down my 2008 goals reached and I am thinking about the goals I want to reach in 2009. I'll put them to blog soon.

What are your goals for 2009? Did you nail your 2008 goals? YOU CAN REACH YOUR GOALS!! (You first have to set them) 'Tis the Season!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

First Snowshoe Run of the Season

Today it is downright balmy! 36F and only a hint of a breeze. What a day! Tomorrow the temps should fall 30 degrees during the day along with 4 " of snow. Monday's high is 5. Enjoy today!

Last night while running on the trail I was slipping and sliding all over. I went off trail to scout out some new areas and the snow was about 4". Good enough for a snow shoe run.

This morning Topaz and I hit the trail at 4 AM, early enough to get in 20 miles before the boys would be ready for Belgian Waffles at 9.

I couldn't help but think about the two bear I saw on the trail last week, I couldn't help but think of the big tracks I saw last night..when I looked up the description of what it was that I saw, I read it was a wolf. I'm not sure. I am not a master of tracking! I enjoy looking at tracks and poop surely that isn't too odd..the poop. Maybe that is why Nancy and Alicia brought back "Who Pooped in the Park?" for me while they were out traveling..and trying to figure out what it is what I am seeing. Remember the poop with the paw in it last year? Amazing.

Anyhow, it was a very mild morning, beautifully so. Every hour or so we would loop back to the car for water and gels. Topaz is too excited to drink from a bowl when we are out at the trail. He simply refuses. He did eat a lot of snow, but I wish he'd drink some water!

At 650 I could see the first light of dawn; beautiful pinks, reds and purples. The birds began to sing and move around. It reminded me of while running a 100, the morning arrives and the animals begin to move and make noise.

As the sun rose I put away my flash light and began to look at the tracks. It seemed that two people were on skis up ahead of me. It seemed that they had a few dogs, off leash, as the tracks weren't near the skis, they were all over the place. Topaz was following the dog tracks, sniffing, and peeing all over the pee that was peed before him.

I fear loose dogs while running. You may recall that I was bit by a black lab on one of my earlier runs. I was training for my first Twin Cities Marathon and 1 mile into a 20, I was bit by a dog that I had run by almost every fricking day. On this day he decided to chase me down and bite me in the butt. I stood there, screaming at this dog. "I HAVE A 20 MILE RUN TODAY. WHY DID YOU BITE ME?" A neighbor the owners of the dog were in the house sleeping off a hangover and would not open the door of the mean dog brought me over some Advil and a roll of paper toweling that I proceeded to stuff into my shorts. "You are not going to continue running?" "Um, yeah, I am, I'll stop here later to deal with the drunks". And off I went. 20 miles and a shower later I was at ER getting 32 stitches into my butt. NICE!

So, yeah, I fear lose dogs while running. I now assume every dog will attack me. Sad but true. It is an irrational fear that I can't get over. Maybe not irrational. Topaz would bite if scared enough.

So back to this morning; I am running along, fearing a pack of out of control loose dogs. Soon enough, Topaz begins to act out his people and dog signal. He returns to me, running just a foot in front of me, looking back at me, waiting for a command. "It's ok Pazzie. Run on, we'll catch them soon". Sure enough I see two women on cross country skis. I don't see any dogs. I cough, trying to get their attention. I yell TOPAZ HEEL. Even though he is right at my side, he knows this is to get THEIR attention. He heels tighter to me and the women look back and see us. They panic. They begin to yell for their pack of dogs which are darting here and there. They are yelling loudly, taking of their skis and running through the woods trying to reach their dogs. It was almost comical. Topaz and I patiently wait for the untrained women and untrained dogs to come together. Gee, they only have 4 leashes. 3 dogs are eventually snapped onto leads, 2 dogs are held in arms with leashes dangling all over the place. One dog refuses to come. A big beautiful white shepherd stands 3 feet in front of the woman. She is screaming at him, GET OVER HERE.COME. COME HERE. I wouldn't want to come either. She looks at me "I think he'll be OK" Oh good lord woman, are you retarded? Why would you come out here with six dogs, off leash, and think this is OK. Why wouldn't you train your dogs you stupid bitch. They need to be on leash if you can't control them. I look at her and say "Maybe if you get down on your knees like this and I get down on my knees, and say come on in a sing song voice which I do and the COME ON in a respect me voice he'll come. Guess what? Beautiful white shepherd looks at me, cocked his head, made eye contact, wagged his tail and butt and proceeded to trot to me. I couldn't believe it. Topaz wagged his butt, whitey wagged his butt and off Topaz and I went. The woman stood there with her mouth wide open.

I don't get it. I will never understand some people. Many people. But people with dogs need to train their dogs. I don't know that there are stupid dogs but I know that there are stupid people.

Whenever Topaz and I are out running I always have his lead and collar along. As soon as we come up on a person I snap on his collar and lead. It's happened so many times that when we begins to smell a person he comes to me and drops down as he knows that is the command I would give if necessary. I snap on the lead and we pass the person. Even when he is out herding deer during our run, one click of the tongue and bam (!) he is at my side. If I hadn't been trained to train him he would not be running offleash.

End Of Rant.

My shoulders and neck began to feel tension after we left these women. I told myself to forget it, everything turned out fine. Pretty soon Topaz looks to the left of the trail and becomes all bristly. Oh come on! Not something out there in the woods. Not the bear. Not the wolf. He growls! Topaz never growls. He legthens his neck out toward the deep woods and sniffs the air. Oh good lord I can't take it. No bear. I look and look, we go off trail, looking for tracks but I didn't see anything. I shrugged my shoulders, rolled my neck and gave up the tension. Time to enjoy this run again. And enjoy I did!

We finished up our 20 miles via snowshoe in plenty of time for the Belgian Waffle fun before I and the boys went running errands. They had some shopping they wanted to do.

Tonight I'm going to Bucca with my ultra runner friends for a Christmas Dinner. I suppose I could replenish the glycogen stores with some carbs..I'll probably stick to the warm tomato/chicken/spinach salad. Woohoo! Enjoy today :)

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Devil Food White Out Cake

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Dorie's Devil Food White Out Cake

I was really surprised when I asked Tyler what type of birthday cake he would like for the big 17 and he began to go through my cookbooks. I thought I'd buy one from the bakery! He and Troy usually like bakery birthday cakes as I make home made cakes all of the time, except for Birthday. Not so this year. He wanted Dorie Greenspan's Devil's Food White Out Cake. Here is the recipe, it isn't as difficult, nor as long, as the writing makes it look! It is very easy to put together. Of course, I doubled the recipe so that I could get big huge layers.

Dorie Greenspan, Baking: From My Home to Yours
Makes makes 12 servings
For the cake
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 sticks (10 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup (packed) light brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled
1/2 cup buttermilk or whole milk, at room temperature
1/2 cup boiling water
4 ounces semisweet or milk chocolate, finely chopped, or 2/3 cup store-bought mini chocolate chips
For the filling and frosting1
/2 cup egg whites (about 4 large)
1 cup sugar
3/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 cup water
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
GETTING READY: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter two 8-x-2-inch round cake pans, dust the insides with flour, tap out the excess and line the bottoms with parchment or wax paper. Put the pans on a baking sheet.
TO MAKE THE CAKE: Sift together the flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder and salt.Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter on medium speed until soft and creamy. Add the sugars and continue to beat for another 3 minutes. Add the eggs one by one, beating for 1 minute after each addition. Beat in the vanilla; don't be concerned if the mixture looks curdled. Reduce the mixer speed to low and mix in the melted chocolate. When it is fully incorporated, add the dry ingredients alternately with the buttermilk, adding the dry ingredients in 3 additions and the milk in 2 (begin and end with the dry ingredients); scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed and mix only until the ingredients disappear into the batter. At this point, the batter will be thick, like frosting. Still working on low speed, mix in the boiling water, which will thin the batter considerably. Switch to a rubber spatula, scrape down the bowl and stir in the chopped chocolate. Divide the batter evenly between the two pans and smooth the tops with the rubber spatula.Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, rotating the pans at the midway point. When fully baked, the cakes will be springy to the touch and a thin knife inserted into the centers will come out clean.
Don't worry if the tops have a few small cracks. Transfer the cake pans to a rack and cool for about 5 minutes, then run a knife around the sides of the cakes, unmold them and peel off the paper liners. Invert and cool to room temperature right side up. (The cooled cake layers can be wrapped airtight and stored at room temperature overnight or frozen for up to 2 months.)
When you are ready to fill and frost the cake, inspect the layers. If the cakes have crowned, use a long serrated knife and a gentle sawing motion to even them. With the same knife, slice each layer horizontally in half. Set 3 layers aside and crumble the fourth layer; set the crumbs aside.TO

MAKE THE FILLING AND FROSTING: Put the egg whites in a clean, dry mixer bowl or in another large bowl. Have a candy thermometer at hand.Put the sugar, cream of tartar and water in a small saucepan and stir to combine. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat, cover the pan and boil for 3 minutes. Uncover and allow the syrup to boil until it reaches 242 degrees F on the candy thermometer. While the syrup is cooking, start beating the egg whites.When the syrup is at about 235 degrees F, begin beating the egg whites on medium speed with the whisk attachment or with a hand mixer. If the whites form firm, shiny peaks before the syrup reaches temperature, reduce the mixer speed to low and keep mixing the whites until the syrup catches up. With the mixer at medium speed, and standing back slightly, carefully pour in the hot syrup, pouring it between the beater(s) and the side of the bowl. Splatters are inevitable -- don't try to scrape them into the whites, just carry on. Add the vanilla extract and keep beating the whites at medium speed until they reach room temperature, about 5 minutes. You should have a smooth, shiny, marshmallowy frosting. Although you could keep it in the fridge in a pinch, it's really better to use it right now.
TO ASSEMBLE THE CAKE: Put a bottom layer cut side up on a cardboard cake round or on a cake plate protected by strips of wax or parchment paper. Using a long metal icing spatula, cover the layer generously with frosting. Top with a second layer, cut side up, and frost it. Finish with the third layer, cut side down, and frost the sides and top of the cake. Don't worry about smoothing the frosting -- it should be swirly. Now, cover the entire cake with the chocolate cake crumbs, gently pressing the crumbs into the filling with your fingers.Refrigerate the cake for about 1 hour before serving. (If it's more convenient, you can chill the cake for 8 hours or more; cover it loosely and keep it away from foods with strong odors.)
SERVING: I think the cake is best at room temperature or just cool, but many people prefer it cold (the texture of the cake becomes fudgier after it has been refrigerated). No matter the temperature, the cake is so pretty it should be cut at the table, so bring it out on a platter and cut it into generous wedges using a serrated knife and a sawing motion.STORING: The frosted cake can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 days; let it stand at room temperature for 30 minutes before serving, or longer if you have the time.

The cake is wonderful. Moist, chocolately and just plain old fabulous. The family and all of Tyler's friends loved it.

Troy told me he wants the same birthday cake. I reminded him of how cute his bakery 'turtle' cake was last year!

Happy 17th Birthday, Tyler!

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Friday, December 05, 2008

A Bear? No, Two Bear!

After a ridiculously perplexing day at work today I couldn't wait to hit the trail while the big fluffy snowflakes were falling.

Topaz and I headed out at 4 PM, a little later than normal and planning 10 miles, I had my flashlight along.

As we ran upon the trail, the wind howling, snowflakes driving into my eyes, my hat pulled over my ears and my neck gaiter pulled up over my face, I hear a loud..well, bellowing. I thought of a cow, a moose, then decided it must have been 'thunder snow' or a real loud car muffler on the county road.

About a mile into our run Topaz began to growl and his hair upon his croup began to stand up. Now, I knew he wasn't looking at a person. I have trained him to complete a 'down' as soon as we see a person and I knew it wasn't a dog as I have him trained to 'come' as soon as he sees a dog. I couldn't figure it out. Pretty soon he looked to the left while running 15 feet in front of me. I looked out to the left, through the bare woods as the leaves are all off of the trees and I didn't see anything. I was looking too far out. It was much closer to us than I was looking. Pretty soon I saw it. Big, black and lumbering through the woods on four legs. My mind went blank. My legs turned to noodles. My heart sank into my stomach. It's a bear. WTF? I've never ever seen a bear nor have I seen bear tracks or bear poop out on the Blue Hill Trail and I have run here almost every day for the past 4 years.

I whispered to Topaz "it's a bear..quiet, come slowly" he crept back to me and slowly we continued upon the trail, leaving the bear behind. He was about 30 feet to my left.

As we began to run I began to think about the bear. I began to wonder if a person should aggressively holler and throw something at the bear if it were to approach..or to walk away quietly or to run? Don't climb a tree!

I was spooked. Every deer that jumped out in front of us made me jump out of my skin. A little doe crossed the trail in between Topaz and I, probably 5 feet in front of me and I nearly feinted.

As we came around the trail head I heard the sound again. I was again coming near the road so it could have been a vehicle, but no sooner did I hear the bellow and I saw it..them. Two bear. Oh sweet Jesus. Two black bear lumbering through the woods. Topaz became growly and his hair again stood on end. He looked at me for a command. "Come, quiet and slow, its bear again" He obeyed and we watched. They were going to cross our path. One of the black bear stood up on his legs and snorted. I about crapped my pants. I turned around and walked away, the way we had just run. I wasn't worried about running another 5 miles around the trail the opposite direction. I had a flashlight. I just couldn't go up the trail and encounter those bear. We back tracked and ran as fast as we could. Of course the bear could change direction and cross our path in the dark; I tried not to think of that. I just kept running.

I swung into the Refuge Headquarters to see if they had been spotting bear recently but they had already closed.

Tomorrow morning I'll be looking for more.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Cold Weather Running

The calendar shows that winter doesn't begin until December 21 but today felt like the first day of winter to me.

The temperature showed 13F, but with a stiff wind, the wind chill factor brought it down to -1. If a few weeks I won't even pay attention to the wind chill factor but at the beginning of the cold weather running season, I can not help but notice it.

I don't like the winter season. I try so hard each year to embrace winter, to try new things, to change my attitude toward winter, I could take a few months of 30F but the teen, the single digits and the below zero just isn't that grand.

The past 5 years I've been snowshoe running. I do enjoy hitting the trails all winter long and the only way to do that is via snowshoe running. Topaz loves winter running. Last winter I began to snowboard and enjoyed it very much, this year I'm going to try downhill skiing. Saturday will be my first go at it.

Now that it is cold and dark at 4AM I have begun to run on the treadmill in the AM during the work week. Depending on the morning I'll run intervals or incline. Topaz whines as he lays near the treadmill; I rub his chest and remind him that we'll hit the trail late afternoon. Topaz and Troy are usually outside playing when I get home from work. I take Topaz and off we go. He loves running in the cold air. Today I had on two long sleeved shirts, a vest and my wind breaker; my turtle fur hat and gaiter, gloves and heavy socks. Still only one pair of pants. That will change as it gets below zero. I wasn't over-dressed, just comfortable. We finish our run as the sun sets. I have a flash light in my pocket just in case we go a bit longer.

I can't help but think of the people living in AZ, FL, CA and TX, able to run comfortably all year long. No snowshoe running though, no snowshoe marathon in January, I guess I'd miss that..maybe. That reminds me that I better get my entry in.

It's Tyler's 17th Birthday on Saturday. He chose Dorie's Devils Food White Out Cake for me to bake for the event. It's in the oven now and smells delicious. I'll make the filling and frosting tomorrow. I'm also going to make some Taffy Balls, a new recipe. I'll post pictures and recipies over the weekend.

Run Hard To Stay Warm.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Great Friends, Great Times :)

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Happy Boys! Kurt and Don

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Rock Climbing

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Follow The Leader

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Cheers To Jeffrey!

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John's Ride

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Aid Station

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I think Maynard is Lifting His Leg Again..

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Hold On!

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St. Croix Shoreline

Pierre is Ready to Dip

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Kick Ass! Helen and Maynard

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Afton Fat Ass

For the last five years, (I think, maybe more.?), the Afton Fat Ass has become a tradition. I'm all over traditions. Scott Wagner (Thank you Scott, for starting this tradition and for all you did for the Minnesota Ultra Community) began this tradition and called it the Afton Fat Ass. The Saturday after Thanksgiving a group of us would run upon the deer trails of the Afton State Park. Most of us have no idea where we are running as these are not the designated trails on the maps or the trails used for the Afton 50K. These are trails deep within the park, in the woods, which I believe, only Scott and John Storkamp and the deer know about. After a run upon the trails we always finish the fun with a pot luck and visiting.

This year and last year John took the torch from Scott and has held the Fat Ass. He does a fabulous job. This year he and Pierre were out in the dark before 6 AM pulling coolers, stashing sparkling cider, cheese, oreos, grapes, water and other delights upon the trail for us to enjoy. It's truly amazing.

19 of us headed out upon the deer trails yesterday morning. After only a few miles we were removing gloves, ear bands, hats and jackets. The sun was out and the temperature climbed up into the 30's; much warmer than I anticipated. With gloves, hat and a neck gaiter stuffed into my pockets and a jacket wrapped around my waist, I felt like a burrow making my way through the forest.

I trekked up hills, climbed rocks, scampered down into ravines, went across water on suspended trees; all the while with a laugh in the throat and a smile upon my face. It was fantastic and I couldn't help from saying so-over and over. I kept on thinking: how fortunate I am to be out here, in the woods, running upon beautiful trails with a group of people in which I have so much fun and have so much in common with. Wonderment.

John led us deep into the woods, upon the trails, a group of 19. The front runners would stop every so often, waiting for the whole group to arrive. We'd talk and drink, heading out again. It was enjoyable to find a different spot in line, a different group of people to speak with for a while, then again, finding myself in another place, with someone else to speak with. What a great way to catch up with what is going on in someones life.

At one point we were climbing down into a ravine; Maynard decided to take a skinny tree across the ravine. I didn't think it would hold him. I was afraid he'd end up with a broken ankle in the rocks below. Thankfully he was able to scamper across and make it to the other side, safely. He promptly lifted his leg and said "PSSSSSSSSS". My mouth fell open and I then shrieked. It was the funniest thing I had seen! He is a member of the Dog Pack you know, so, upon doing something risky, or reaching an accomplishment, or what have you..he lifts his leg and psssssts. It was hilarious! I've run many hours with the Dog Pack guys but had never seen one lift his leg before! You know that I will now be watching out for it, you Dogs.

Later on in our run, at about 4 hours, we were running along the St. Croix river shoreline. We came to a campfire where John dug a torch out of the woods and started a fire. He then pointed to a milk jug well into the river and stated that he needed someone to fetch it for him. The someone that did would receive a free entry to the Chippewa 50K AND the Afton 50 K. Luckily I told Wynn I would volunteer for Chippewa so I didn't even think about submerging myself into the freezing cold water. However, Maynard, Valeria, Karen, Helen and Pierre were going to take the plunge. They began to remove outer layers and shoes. God, I was cold just watching them. Helen just finished IM Arizona last weekend; she is the swimmer of the bunch so my money was on her. They began to enter the water before Valeria was ready so she stayed on shore. Karen and Pierre began but came back and Maynard and Helen were off to the buoy. Oh man, out they went and then Maynard looked like he was going to reach it first, but Helen did and she dove under to retrieve the anchor (!), they both arrived safe and sound to the shoreline, dripping wet and cold. Good Lord. Maynard was steaming himself near the flames, Helen stripped out of her base layers and back into her outer layers. Brrrrrrrr. Way to go, Helen!

Of course, I asked Maynard if he was going to lift his leg..this was lifting the leg worthy..he agreed; and did so.

Back we went to the Vistor Center to change ourselves and enjoy conversation with all. It was fabulous. Hot coffee, a hot fire and plenty of food for everyone.

Thank you so much, John :)

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Birthday Fun Run

Today a group of about 15 of us celebrated the birthday of three friends. Duke, Nancy and Pierre were the celebrities of the day.

A smaller group of us began the celebration at Afton State Park at 830 for a few hours of running through the woods. It snowed a bit last night so we were able to run upon a light dusting of the white stuff; just enough to make the leaves slippery.

John, Eve, Duke, Tom, Don, Pierre and I headed out. I spent the first hour running with Tom, Don and Pierre. Before I knew it I was running with John, Eve and Duke-wondering how I had ended up with this fast group. As they were charging full bore up a hill I turned around, looking back for my slower group, but didn't see them. I yelled up front that the fearsome threesome had extra baggage along with them and would have to slow down. They laughed and slowed down considerably for me.

On a recovered good day I can't keep up with this group so 1 week post 100 I certainly can't! We had a great time as John took us through the deer paths, up and down the ravine, over and under the fallen trees. I was sweating as hard as I was breathing as I was telling Eve about Javelina. After a few hours Duke and I headed back to the Visitor Center to meet the rest of the group as John and Eve went on for a longer run. What a great way to start the day!

Back at the Center we celebrated the Birthday's with laughs, gifts and food.

As I pulled on my jacket and waved goodbye to everyone, Eve stated: Congratulations to Julie on her run. Let's all clap for her! All of a sudden, the Center was full of the noise of clapping hands. All of my friends-clapping for and congratulating me on Javelina Jundred. Isn't that something? I stood there, with my mouth open, unable to quite believe it.

What an awesome group of friends.

Hard to believe that one week ago, right now, I was running through the desert, at 87F. Today I am running through the snow, at 22F. I was only able to shoot one picture and it came out as a movie. The camera batteries don't like 'cold' temperatures!

Don, Tom and Pierre

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